Do You Really Need a UV Filter?
It's a question that plagues new and experienced photographers alike...
Do I really need a UV filter?
The answer to that question has been "it depends" for a long while now.
Some photographers swear by UV filters; others think they're useless.
I'd like to argue in favor of the former, though. Here's why.
Reason #1: UV Filters Cut Down on UV Rays
Photographers need UV filters because they help reduce the number of ultraviolet rays (UV) that enter the lens.
This is important because UV rays can cause reduced image quality. What's the point of having a nice camera and a fancy lens if you don't help them take the best photos they can take?
Now, some photographers argue that UV filters themselves degrade the quality of images, and to a much greater degree than UV rays themselves.
Years ago, those photographers would have had an argument. However, over the last 8-10 years, the quality of UV filters has dramatically increased (as has the quality of polarizers, ND filters, and so forth).
That makes the "UV filters degrade images" argument null and void.
Reason #2: UV Filters Protect Your Lens Glass
Tell me if this sounds familiar...
You're fumbling around in the darkness, getting your gear setup for an early morning shoot, and your camera and lens find their way out of your bag and onto the ground with a thud.
Naturally, there would be an immediate concern for the delicate pieces and parts of your camera and lens, like the glass on the front of your lens.
But guess what? If you have a UV filter attached, the chances are that the filter would take the brunt of the fall and that your lens glass would have a better shot at being okay.
Some photographers argue that if you drop your lens hard enough that a UV filter isn't going to do anything to protect the lens glass.
And while I fully admit that if I throw my lens against a concrete floor as hard as I can that a UV filter won't help, I can also testify to the fact that a less forceful, accidental drop has resulted in a couple of broken UV filters for me over the years...and no damage to my lens glass.
Reason #3: UV Filters Keep the Lens Glass Clean
The fact of the matter is that dust, dirt, fingerprints, and other stuff will find it's way onto glass, whether it's your lens or a UV filter.
The argument against using a UV filter is often that if it's going to get dirty, what's the point of having one?
My position is that it's a heck of a lot easier to remove a UV filter and clean it than it is to clean the front element of my lens.
What's more, I'd much rather do a quick cleaning job on a $30 UV filter than my $600 lens, anyway. If I scratch the filter, no big deal. If I scratch my lens - yikes.
I'm not advocating that you shouldn't take care when cleaning a UV filter, but hey, replacing a filter is a heck of a lot less expensive than replacing or repairing a damaged lens!
Reason #4: UV Filters Minimize Color Casting in Sunny Conditions
Some lenses suffer from a certain type of chromatic aberration that causes purple fringing.
In particular, chromatic aberration that occurs on a longitudinal plane can cause this purple fringing to appear throughout the image.
A UV filter can help reduce that fringing on many lenses, resulting in a clearer, cleaner image.
What's more, some UV filters actually increase the contrast of the image that gives it more visual appeal.
So, while chromatic aberration on a longitudinal plane is fairly uncommon, why risk having purple fringing in your images when you have an easy and inexpensive way to minimize it?
Reason #5: Today's UV Filters are Well Built and Packed With Features
The saying goes that your lens is only as good as the filter in front of it...
So if you invest in a poor quality UV filter, then you aren't going to enjoy the benefits I've outlined above.
But if you invest in a UV filter that's been made with precision and quality in mind, you'll find that it might become one of your most used pieces of kit.
Take, for example, the Formatt-Hitech Firecrest UV IR filter shown above.
Not only does it block UV rays, but it filters out infrared rays as well. That means even less harmful light is entering your lens and reducing the quality of your images.
What's more, the Firecrest UV IR filter increases contrast and improves image acuity, again, resulting in improved image quality.
Unlike many cheap UV filters, the Firecrest has Formatt-Hitech's specialized multicoating that gives the filter both anti-reflective and hydrophobic properties.
That means that when you're out shooting in bright daylight conditions, you can worry less about glare and focus more on your composition.
Likewise, if the weather turns south, you don't have to be concerned about water droplets on the filter because it will shed them away so you can keep taking photos.
Heck, if you invest in a high-quality filter like the Firecrest UV IR, you'll enjoy less vignetting, too...
That's because it has one of the thinnest rings on the market today, so your camera will capture the scene in front of the lens, not the filter ring.
That's not a bad deal if you ask me!
Wrapping It Up
I know there are plenty of arguments against using a UV filter, but for me, none of them are good enough to sway my opinion that a UV filter is a critical part of any photographer's kit.
If I can add something to my kit that's inexpensive, improves the quality of my images, and protects my lens, believe me, I'm going to do it!
If you're not convinced, check out the links in the Learn More sections throughout this article to read up on UV filters and what they can do for you!